Yoga practise as a support, not a determiner…

‘Life goes through cycles where practise needs to support, not determine how you live’.

This was a comment I made in an Instagram discussion with an ashtanga yoga teacher recently, and I keep reflecting on it!

Patanjali’s yoga sutras describe how asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), create a strong, healthy body so that we are less distracted by physical suffering to be ready to see ourselves more clearly through meditation, and to connect with the bigger picture of higher consciousness. (Please excuse my little nutshell summary!)

’Though having countless desires, the mind-stuff exists for the sake of another (the Purusha/soul/divine self) because it can act only in association with it.’

(Sutra 4.24)

I’ve certainly been through phases of practise where I have felt stressed about attending a class/meeting – to please the teacher, fear of missing out on a valuable opportunity of self-improvement, to make sure I keep up a membership etc etc.

This is my shadow work of course; fear of being seen as ‘bad’ and there being some kind of punishment, humiliation, shame if I don’t do my homework. However, I’ve been working to see that this tendency to ‘be good,’ is my emotional immaturity, and ‘being good’ is to be wiser. To look closely & honestly within; less outward seeking to please or impress others.

Where do you feel supported? I am privileged to have learned with some wonderful teachers. What I have found most useful is how someone makes me feel.

How they are able to show compassion, and teach from a place that seeks to support me in self-discovery, rather than define me. Being welcomed into a shared energy, with a teacher as an expert, sensitive guide, who sees the individual and offers their expert knowledge in alignment with where each person is that day. Yoga postures can be works of art, and art is a worthy pursuit of soul-expression! Yoga practise can also be difficult, messy, humbling and frustrating – sometimes this also is an expression of the soul! A limit to face with grace and curiosity, as my friend and teacher ashtanga Claire would say xx

I’m humbly realising that this is a benefit of age; that I have more opportunities to recognise what’s really important in each moment. Increasingly, I have noticed my trait of wanting to do everything, to learn new things, sometimes as a means of external validation. What I keep redirecting my attention to, is where I feel full of love and where the service I am giving is offering support to someone else – not just fanning the flames of my own ego. I also tend to take everything too seriously!! This is a hard, hot potato to see and swallow, but is another part of self-growth and cultivating maturity!

Another benefit of ageing is that we go through more cycles; more chances to grow and evolve. Time doesn’t always deal us a good hand in health and happiness, and this is where I see that yoga informed practises become a healing medicine. As our health conditions fluctuate, seasonally, through illness, through life’s’ demands, we may need a different diet, varying medicines, more rest.

Like any medicine, the prescriptions are tailored to what difficulties are presenting themselves. Movement, breathwork, meditation are all powerful healing aids, with which we can combine and tweak a prescription to support the current life situation.

However, I do believe that there is always a baseline! We need well-informed rigour - rules bring freedom, patterns offer structure, consistency offers stability, a map can lead you to find a new path of curiosity!

Committing time to my practise and learning is part of being a ‘seeker’, and I am hoping it enables me to be a kinder human being, a wiser parent, a more loving spouse and truly present friend. Yoga practise and philosophies supports me to feel physically and mentally stronger, to recognise where I have been acting from ego flattery in the past, and be wiser going forward. I learn to accept my soul’s progress with less shame and judgement – this is in turn helping me to be more compassionate to others.

My personal balance is to avoid too much external seeking, and look within more honestly, working with what I’ve got, learning to love what I can do, not what someone else can do….and keeping space/time/energy to be compassionately present with those I love.

How does your practise support you? I’d love to hear your thoughts….NAMASTE x

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